Somewhere in the middle of a nine-hour bus journey from Tauranga to Wellington, I began to feel like I might be doing the whole solo female travel thing wrong. I’d been singing “Wheels On The Bus” with an eight-year-old girl for the past six hours and was already questioning almost everything I’d been told about going on holiday alone. If this had been a rom-com, I would have ended up next to the love of my life, not babysitting free of charge.
Before leaving for New Zealand, I considered the fact that I was traveling alone merely incidental. I enjoy hiking and swimming, and that’s kind of New Zealand’s whole “thing.” Whenever someone responded to my travel plans with “by yourself?!”, I shrugged it off, indifferent and somewhat bemused by their concern. I’m introverted, happy in my own company, a reader and someone with a ceaseless inner monologue that is both entertaining and exhausting—being alone would not be a big struggle for me. Resisting the near-constant availability of fish and chips on the other hand? Now that would be a challenge.
New Zealand had been on my bucket list for some time, and so I was raring to go, whether anyone would join me or not. I was unfazed by the almost 50-hour journey I would have to take, and played down my belated realization that my great summer abroad would, in fact, be during the winter. I had six weeks to loop around the two islands, guided by my own whims. Nothing to lose, everything to gain, I headed off with no adaptor, plan, or itinerary—and thus a pretty loose set of expectations.
And yet, in an unguarded moment on this godforsaken Intercity bus, I started to worry. While Spotify was insistent—and, might I add, a little pointed—in recommending the “My Life Is A Movie” playlist to me, the trip had not turned up the stuff of Hollywood scripts. I’d had a toothless skipper ask for my number, and suffered a series of unprofitable currency exchange miscalculations. Most embarrassing of all, I did not have one epiphany to show for it all. I was utterly failing to live up to the myth of the solo female traveler.
This trope is everywhere in pop culture. She is there in the great odysseys of Eat Pray Love, Wild, and Under The Tuscan Sun. She is Celine in Before Sunrise, Ann in Roman Holiday, the girls in Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants. She is inescapable. And she is the standard against which you will inevitably measure yourself should you ever find yourself trotting across to the other side of the world.